The decision as to whether to knock on the window or ring the buzzer next to the already open gate had taken him longer than he would like to admit. He would like to admit even less that it hadn’t occurred to him for a very long time that the reason the gate was open was that his arrival was expected. Eventually, he decided to take the risk and knock on the window, secretly enjoying the slight advantage it gave him. It conveyed that he was comfortable here. That he felt he was welcome, that he wasn’t asking permission to come in but rather he was merely announcing his presence. 

Two could play at that game, and that they did. So she didn’t open the kitchen door just yet. She gave it a second or two, just enough to make him ever so slightly uncomfortable, to make him question whether he shouldn’t have just pressed the buzzer anyway, before she opened the door. He stepped inside immediately, perching on the tabletop, and she wondered whether she shouldn’t have perhaps left him outside a second or two more. She decided the best way to correct that mistake was to unbalance him, so she sat down.

She sat on a dining chair behind him, leaving him facing away from her and just a little too much higher than her to not feel odd. He had to turn around. He had to jump off of the table and walk around it, but he knew his next move, so he sat himself on another dining chair, tucking himself under the table fully and looking as home as he possibly could. He reached for the jug of water in the centre of the table, took a glass from the pile, inspected it very obviously, decided it was beneath him, and picked up another. He poured some water into this new one, took one sip and then left it on the table, carefully placed neatly next to a mat so that it was directly on her precious wood. The first glass he took over to the sink and added to the pile of dirty dishes.

She tried very hard not to be amused. She appreciated that she understood him. That they could fight their battles with each other with an underlying superficial battle too, one to release their aggravations. She glanced at the clock and grinned, standing as he sat back down again, leaving him stranded at the dining table as she opened the oven to release her dinner. Dinner carefully measured to be very definitely for one person. She dished it up slowly, taking great pains to make it last as long as she could. Then, trying very hard not to smile, she walked straight past him, and into the living room. Seating herself on the sofa, she switched on the television, turned it up as much as she could get away with, and sat back. 

He left. He got as far as the end of her road before he realised he had to go back. He would turn off the stupidly loud television which was playing documentaries she knew he hated, but which he knew she hated too, and then he would sit on her coffee table. That would annoy her, and he would be in the way between her and the television so she couldn't turn it back on again without breaking the subtlety. He could even fold one leg over another and tap the dirty toes of his shoes against the glass if he had to. 

She wasn’t new to this, she knew him and how he would think, so she got up, she turned off the television, and she went directly to bed. The dinner dishes on the already abused washing pile, the lights off, the curtains closed and upstairs she went, dressing quickly into the most childish clothing she could find. The kitchen door downstairs was unlocked, she knew that he would know she was expecting him because the door was open, but it would be no fun to lock him out. A lot of effort to go to bed if he didn’t even have to witness that. If she didn’t get to witness his next move. 

He knew she had gone when he got to the door. He felt the television was not his best move, it had already been utilised naturally, but she annoyingly owned no musical instruments at all, and he wasn’t going to do her washing up for her even if it did involve making a lot of noise. So he settled back into the living room and switched on the television. He figured he may as well watch something interesting, considering it was just there for the noise. So he went through to the kitchen, found adequate supplies in her cupboards, and retreated back to the sofa.

She wasn’t overly irritated by the television, she had at least a good book to keep her company, and she wasn’t against going to sleep if she was honest. But although she hadn’t truthfully been expecting him tonight, she knew what he was here for, and she grudgingly acknowledged that their evening game of who can annoy the other person most had made her look more favourably on him. He was her friend, she had remembered that. Taking the book with her in case she decided instead to continue their battle and expertly ignore him behind a book, she slipped downstairs.

He had decided to turn the television off as soon as he heard her coming, so that she didn’t get to enjoy the show he had chosen, which he knew she would have chosen too. He hadn't, however, made any more plans than that. He was mainly hoping she would give up and stay in bed, he could finish his show, leave to go home, act normal next time he saw her and maybe this was a conversation they didn’t need to have. Her arrival in the living room put a hole in his plans, not that he would have expressed that. He watched her sit down and she watched him back.

June 05, 2021 23:02

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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